POKEMON….NO: The New Dangerous Distraction

man about to get into distracted driving accident while playing pokemon go

Unaltered image from iphonedigital on flikr.

National guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day for children and teens, but the majority of young people do not meet that goal. Spending excessive time engaging in sedentary behaviors such as watching TV, playing video games and other screen time activities, contributes to the problem.

The Center for Disease Control has found that people who are physically active tend to live longer and have lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Physical activity can also help with weight control, and may improve academic achievement in students.

So it came as no surprise that Pokemon GO would be a relief to parents who simply wanted their kids to get outside and become more physically active. What made the game appear even better was that it utilized something that many kids and teens have in their hands all day: Cell phones. In fact, twice as many children have cell phones now as in 2004. The following statistics are the results of a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation of children with cell phones:

  • 85% of those aged 14 to 17
  • 69% of those aged 11-14 
  • 31% of those aged 8-10 

But since the release, the number of incidents involving this hand held application have turned the game from Pokemon GO to Pokemon NO. The mobile video game was officially released on July 6 2016 by Niantic and The Pokémon Company.

How Does Pokemon GO Work?

Using global positioning systems in most phones, the game randomly scatters virtual pocket monster or Pokemon at map locations in the real world. Players then have to physically get to the location, to collect the critters in the game; The more you collect, the more points you earn. As the individual is watching their hand held device, a virtual Pokemon will appear as the player gets closer. Because the Pokemon are in tricky locations and only show up when you are close to them, the gamer is constantly staring intently at the phone in search of the virtual Pokemon as they simultaneously walk and drive causing less attention to be paid to overall surroundings. “You’re literally walking around going, ‘Wait wait, I’m close, I’m close.’ Then it’s taking you here. ‘Wait a minute, I’m on the sidewalk. Now I’m off the sidewalk. Ya know, that’s dangerous,” says Tiffany Wright of AAA Carolinas.

Here is an informative teen accident infographic bringing attention to the main causes of traffic accidents in Sacramento.

On this blog, we have discussed the dangers of distracted driving and how these distractions can prove deadly.

However, with the onset of Pokemon Go, it is becoming clear that distracted walking can prove deadly, too. Pokemon Go is bringing attention to an issue that has been in existence for a while.  It has become such a big problem in recent years that Injury Facts® 2015, the statistical report on unintentional deaths and injuries published by the National Safety Council, for the first time has included statistics on cell phone distracted walking.

 

According to Injury Facts, distracted walking incidents involving cell phones accounted for more than 11,100 injuries between 2000 and 2011. The following numbers are likely to go up with the increased use and popularity of cell phones and hand held apps.

  • distracted driving sacramento52% of cell phone distracted walking injuries happen at home.
  • 68% of those injured are women; • 54% of which are age 40 or younger.
  • Nearly 80% of the injuries were due to a fall.
  • In 2013, 6,100 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles.
  • That same year, about 160,000 pedestrian injuries required medical attention.
  • 23 percent of deaths and injuries result from pedestrians darting into the street, with the majority of those younger than age 15.
  • The number of deaths caused by pedestrian car accidents has decreased significantly since the 1970s; during that decade, deaths were between 8,400 and 10,300.
  • During the decade from 2002 to 2013, death rates didn’t change much; they hovered around 6,000, with a low of 5,300 in 2009.

While pedestrian-vehicle injuries are the fifth leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 19, according to www.SafeKids.org, no age group is immune. Specifically directed at this game, Peter Wanless CEO of the NSPCC wrote in an open letter to Nintendo that, “given Pokémon’s already massive popularity with children, the NSPCC is concerned that basic safety standards appear to have been overlooked.” Some governmental agencies have already taken action. The terrifying sightings of locals playing Pokemon Go while driving, as well as an onslaught of images featuring Pokemon on car dashboards, prompted New York state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue public safety warnings.

What can you do as a parent?

If you are a parent of a child who has a cell phone, there are things you can do to keep them safe.

  • Set limits: Most cell phone companies allow you to cap the number of texts a user can send or receive as well as the number of minutes the cell phone can be used. Designate times that the cell phone needs to be turned off — for instance, during family meals, after 10 p.m., and during school hours. If your teen is a driver, insist that he or she not to use the phone when driving.
  • Follow the same limits yourself:  If you don’t want your child to use the phone during meals or while driving, follow those rules yourself.
  • Discuss Openly: Discuss the real dangers of distracted walking (and driving) and make sure you children are aware of the risks.

Like every other obsession, Pokemon Go will eventually fade away when the next new craze arrives. However, until that time, be on the look-out for distracted individuals, avoid distractions yourself and if you must play the game, play it SAFELY. Be aware of your surroundings and the ease with which a person can walk into oncoming traffic or other dangers if they are distracted. Above all, NEVER play Pokemon Go while driving.

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